“How do you like Savannah so far?”
What a welcoming question to hear over and over around town as I meet new folks in my first few months here. “What’s not to like,” has been my friendly way of answering that question. “I mean, look around us.”
Savannah has always had incredible natural beauty, meaningful history, and cultural importance that no other Georgia city can match. Combine those with what's happening here today like our explosive economic growth, dynamic civic involvement opportunities, and world-class outdoor activities – that is a recipe that makes for a quality of life that is the envy of virtually every friend I have living in other parts of the state.
But it's also true that we have significant challenges, and as it has for the past 216 years, the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce will stand shoulder to shoulder with leaders willing to serve at the forefront of addressing those challenges.
Large-scale public and private investments around the region mean even more growth will follow, which will continue to strain our infrastructure – roads, water/sewer, and just about every other public service provided by our city and county governments. The Chamber's staff and volunteer leadership have been and will continue to be on the front lines in these discussions. Our leaders must continue to invest in infrastructure improvements, and our members will support those that place these investments at the top of their priorities.
We are also facing a workforce shortage that demands our full support of our K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions. In particular, our graduates must have transferable skills that fit today’s workplace, especially in careers that are in high demand in the region. Our members already feel this workforce pinch every single day. A new school superintendent search is underway, and we congratulate Dr. Ann Levett on her service to Chatham County students and families. The Chamber will actively support our school board as they make this critical decision for our region's future.
And once these students find their career, ensuring the region has a growing supply of housing that enables our police officers, firefighters, and manufacturing workers to afford to live where they serve will continue to be one of our top priorities. There has been progress on this at both the state and local levels, but much more needs to be done.
Our community must focus on our homeless population with empathy and concern while also addressing the illegal behaviors exhibited by some of the unhoused. The strategic improvements made to the public and non-profit support services in town are huge steps forward. Our Chamber will continue to champion the work being done by these incredible leaders. Especially in the downtown area, business owners experience real impacts because of illegal activity that hurts their ability to be successful. We should commit to building a public safety system that protects our businesses, residents and visitors, while also helping those in need.
I hope Savannahians never take for granted how special it is to live here. The challenges we face are not unique to Coastal Georgia, and we have the capacity to address them all. The Savannah Area Chamber will continue to serve as a key voice for business, working to ensure the economic opportunity coming to our region spreads throughout our business community. Savannah has a remarkable history – let's all commit to ensuring our future is even better.